SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND IN BEIJING
AMBASSADE DE SUISSE EN CHINE

Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  13-17.5.13, No. 475  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

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Bilateral Issues

Chinese premier to visit India, Pakistan, Switzerland, Germany (Xinhua)
2013-05-14
Premier Li Keqiang will pay official visits to India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany from May 19 to 27, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday. Li will make the visits at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Pakistani government, Swiss President Ueli Maurer and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, respectively, spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

China, Vietnam pledge closer bilateral ties (Xinhua)
2013-05-11
The sixth meeting of the China-Vietnam steering committee on cooperation was held in Beijing on Saturday, with the two sides agreeing to further advance bilateral ties. The meeting was co-chaired by Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi and Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Thien Nhan. During the meeting, Yang said that China and Vietnam are close neighbors and need to implement the agreements reached by the two state leaders with a long-term view. They also must uphold the correct direction of developing bilateral ties to advance their strategic cooperation in a comprehensive way. Yang said the two sides need to maintain high-level contact, improve efficiency of their cooperation, advance people-to-people exchanges, effectively manage and properly handle differences on the South China Sea and strengthen maritime cooperation. Nguyen Thien Nhan said the party and government of Vietnam is willing to further advance the two sides' comprehensive, strategic and cooperative partnership, deepen political mutual trust and properly handle differences on the South China Sea. A joint press release was issued by the two sides after the meeting. They agreed that it is of the fundamental interests of the two peoples for China and Vietnam to enhance strategic mutual trust and strengthen comprehensive cooperation. An implementing plan in cultural fields and a five-year development plan on economic and trade cooperation were signed at the meeting to enhance their cooperation, according to the press release. The two sides reiterated their stance on handling the differences on the South China Sea through friendly negotiation and peaceful discussion. They also agreed in the press release to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea and make joint efforts to safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea. ^ top ^

Special Report: Chinese Premier on first foreign trip to demonstrate diplomacy of new leadership (Xinhua)
2013-05-14
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is to pay official visits to India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany next week, his first foreign trip as China's new head of government. As an important diplomatic tour by the new Chinese leadership, the upcoming trip by Li spans the two continents of Asia and Europe and has sparked intense interests both at home and abroad. […] Li's destinations this time include both developing and developed nations, and both China's close neighbors and partners from further afield. Qu Xing, head of China's Institute of International Studies, said that Li's upcoming trip will carry forward China's multi-faceted diplomacy. More than three decades of reform and opening-up have shown that China's development is inseparable with the rest of the world and that a more prosperous world is increasingly associated with China. China and the world are becoming a community of shared destiny. Coming at a time when China is playing a more prominent role on the world stage and carries increasing economic significance, Li's visits would illustrate the idea of shared destiny and China's belief in common development. It is also hoped the visits could consolidate the peaceful environment for China's development. Starting with India and Pakistan, China's two close neighbors, Li's maiden trip attests to Beijing's diplomatic priority on its ties with neighboring nations. Switzerland and Germany, on the other hand, are important nations in Europe, a region that has the largest number of developed countries in the world. China and Europe are not only economically inter-connected, but also share consensus in building a multipolar world and achieving common development. Specifically, India is Li's first stop -- a fact that shows the utmost importance both countries place on their relations. As the two biggest and most populous developing countries, China and India have broad common interests to work together on development. As major emerging markets with enviable economic growth, the two countries offer each other plenty of opportunities for further cooperation. Against the backdrop of fragile world economic recovery and weak demand across developed countries, cooperation between China and India will not only benefit the two BRICS countries, but also exert a positive spillover effect upon the world economy. China and Pakistan are called "all-weather" partners for their unusual friendship, which makes a solid foundation for an expansion of their decades-old cooperative ties. […] As developed countries in Europe, Switzerland and Germany are different from China. Yet, China and the two European countries are economically complementary. Europe currently needs China's huge market in its fight against the lingering debt crisis, while China needs Europe's advanced technologies and management expertise in its bid to achieve economic transformation and fulfill the Chinese dream of national revival. Li's four-nation tour is aimed at boosting bilateral ties by strengthening political mutual trust, expanding economic cooperation and enhancing cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Political, economic and cultural cooperations are the three pillars of a sound development of bilateral relations. On the political level, Li is expected to meet with foreign counterparts, ministers, parliamentarians and party leaders of the four countries, demonstrating China's sincerity and confidence in strengthening political communication and cooperation with the four. Political mutual trust has been an important premise of the healthy development of bilateral ties. During Li's visits, China hopes to reach more political consensus with the four countries, which would increase political mutual trust and boost the overall development of bilateral ties. In the economic field, Li is to ink a host of cooperative deals and strive to achieve breakthrough in several economic and trade negotiations. Economic cooperation between China and the four countries have flourished in recent years. China is Germany's largest trade partner in the Asia-Pacific region, while Germany is China's largest trade partner in Europe. A free trade zone between China and Switzerland will inject impetus to bilateral cooperation. China and India have agreed on a goal to raise their annual trade volume to 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2015. China-Pakistan trade has grown by more than 20 percent every year. Li's visits are expected to carry forward pragmatic cooperation between China and the four nations, which will benefit not only themselves but also the global economy which is still plagued by financial woes. To promote cultural and people-to-people exchanges, the Chinese Premier, during his visits, will meet local people from all walks of life. Better understanding and deepened friendship between peoples will lay a more solid foundation for the development of relations between countries. It is gratifying to note that China has achieved fruitful results in cultural and people-to-people exchanges with the four countries, with Li's visits set to further cement the bonds. ^ top ^

Beijing urges Philippines to 'thoroughly investigate' killing (SCMP)
2013-05-14
Beijing would give Taiwan its strong backing if tensions triggered by the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coastguard last week continue to escalate, analysts said yesterday. But Beijing would express its support cautiously, they say, to avoid being seen as using the spat to step up cross-strait reunification efforts. The foreign ministry and the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing have condemned Thursday's shooting in waters claimed by both the Philippines and Taiwan as part of their exclusive economic zones. "We urged the Philippines to thoroughly investigate the case and furnish the details," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing yesterday. Professor Xu Bodong, director of Beijing Union University's Taiwan Institute, said Beijing could possibly step up patrols in the South China Sea if the Philippines did not give a satisfactory reply to Taiwan. Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher specialising in Taiwan affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing could also support Taiwanese sanctions against the Philippines. He said Beijing's support would help lower Taiwanese people's resistance to closer ties with Beijing because "this will add positive sentiments to cross-straits efforts for resisting foreign intrusion". There are rising calls for Taiwan and mainland to get closer to defend their common interests. For example, mainland activists have called for joint efforts with Taiwan to step up displays of sovereignty in disputed waters in the East China Sea also claimed by Japan. But Taiwan's government seems wary of any mainland involvement in the row. "So far we have not considered working with the mainland over the issue," Taiwanese foreign minister David Lin said. He added that Taiwan had tried to discuss a fishery pact with the Philippines for a long time but Manila's concerns about Beijing's attitude had hampered any progress in the talks. Shuai Hua-min, a legislator from Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang, said it would be more appropriate for the two sides to work on their own in defending their rights in the disputed waters. [...]. ^ top ^

Japan government distances itself from 'comfort women' comment (SCMP)
2013-05-15
The Japanese government on Tuesday distanced itself from comments by a prominent politician that the so-called “comfort women” of second world war served a “necessary” role by keeping troops in check. Outspoken Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said soldiers living with the daily threat of death needed some way to let off steam which was provided by the comfort women system. Up to 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere were forcibly drafted into brothels catering to the Japanese military in territories occupied by Japan during the second world war, according to many mainstream historians. [...] South Korea voiced “deep disappointment” over the comments, which risk inflaming Japan's relationship with neighbours that were victims of brutal expansionism and who claim Tokyo has never faced up to its warmongering past. “There is worldwide recognition... that the issue of comfort women amounts to a wartime rape committed by Japan during its past imperial period in a serious breach of human rights,” a Seoul foreign ministry spokesman said. "Our government again urges Japan's prominent officials to show regret for atrocities committed during Japan's imperial period and to correct their anachronistic way of thinking and comments.” [...] Japan's top government spokesman and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday refused to comment directly on Hashimoto's remarks. However, he said: “The government's position on the comfort women issue is that, as I repeatedly said here, we feel pains towards people who experienced hardships that are beyond description and [this] administration shares the view held by past governments.” In a landmark 1993 statement, the Japanese government offered “sincere apologies” for the “immeasurable pain and suffering” inflicted on comfort women. Two years later, Japan issued a broader apology expressing “deep remorse” for war suffering. The 1993 statement remains passionately opposed by some Japanese conservatives who contend that the country did not directly coerce women. Despite a hawkish stance on history, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated last week he does not intend to backtrack on these apologies. Japan's shared history with its Asian neighbours looms over present-day relations, which are also strained by separate territorial disputes with Seoul and Beijing. [...]. ^ top ^

Okinawa doesn't belong to Japan, says hawkish PLA general (SCMP)
2013-05-15
A hawkish Chinese general has possibly opened a Pandora's box on territorial disputes in East Asia by saying that the Ryukyu Islands including Okinawa do not belong to Japan. Luo Yuan, a People's Liberation Army two-star general, has said that Japan could not rightfully claim sovereignty over the islands, because they had started paying tribute to China half a millenium before they had done so to Japan. The islands had started paying tribute to China in 1372, the general said in an interview with China News Service on Tuesday. Only in 1872, 500 years later, did Japan exploit China's weakness to force the Ryukuyu Islands into submission, he said. Okinawa, the chain's largest island, hosts several US military bases. The islands were controlled by the United States under a UN mandate until 1972, when they were handed over to Japan. The general, known for his outspoken nationalism, reasoned that the Ryukyuan people had closer ethnic and cultural ties to coastal China than they had to Japan. Their rulers were vassals of the Chinese court, he argued. [...] "Let's for now not discuss whether [the Ryukyu] belong to China, they were certainly China's tributary state," said the major general. "I am not saying all former tributary states belong to China, but we can say with certainty that the Ryukyus do not belong to Japan." The People's Republic has had a contradictory record on making its territorial claims based on imperial China's tributary relationships. [...] "The Ryukyus don't belong to [Japan], how can we even talk about the Diaoyu Islands," Luo said. ^ top ^

China gets observer status on Arctic Council (SCMP)
2013-05-16
The Arctic Council agreed yesterday to admit emerging powers China and India as observers, reflecting growing global interest in the trade and energy potential of the planet's far north. The organisation, which co-ordinates Arctic policy, is gaining clout as sea ice thaws to open up new trade routes and intensify competition for oil and gas - estimated at 15 per cent and 30 per cent respectively of undiscovered reserves. China has been active in the polar region, becoming one of the biggest mining investors in Greenland and agreeing on a free trade deal with Iceland. Shorter shipping routes across the Arctic Ocean would save its companies time and money. The council includes the United States, Russia, Canada and Nordic nations. Observer status gives countries the right to listen in on meetings and propose and finance policies. China, Japan, India, South Korea, Singapore and Italy now have observer status. "Despite the varied interests we have heard from the permanent participants, there is nothing that should unite us quite like our concern for both the promise and challenges of the northernmost reaches of the earth," US Secretary of State John Kerry told the meeting in Sweden's northern town of Kiruna. "The consequences of our nations' decisions do not stop at the 66th parallel," Kerry said, referring to the latitude of the Arctic Circle. The council ruled that the European Union could observe meetings until a final decision on its status was taken. EU members France, Germany, Spain and Britain have observer status. Diplomats said Canada and other Arctic states objected to an EU ban on imported seal products. Indigenous groups say they depend on the seal trade. Russia has long been sceptical of letting in the European Union as an observer, arguing it has representation through its members Sweden, Finland and Denmark. A Chinese shipping firm is planning the country's first commercial voyage through a shortcut across the Arctic Ocean to the United States and Europe this year, saving time and money. The distance from Shanghai to Hamburg is 2,800 nautical miles shorter via the Arctic than via the Suez Canal. China has boosted its mining investment in Greenland mainly because of large deposits of rare earths, used in smartphones and green technology. "The entry of countries like China not only reflects how the Arctic has become a region of global interest, it also shows how the Arctic Council has become the main body of Arctic governance," said Damien Degeorges, founder of the Arctic Policy and Economic Forum. ^ top ^

Beijing caught in the crossfire over killing of Taiwanese fisherman (SCMP)
2013-05-16
A diplomatic dispute between Manila and Taipei, triggered by the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coastguard, has presented Beijing with a dilemma. Should it take firm action to back up the island or stick to verbal condemnation? There is rising public sentiment on both sides of the strait that Taiwan and the mainland should team up to exert pressure on the Philippines. But both sides are acutely aware that such a move would drag them into the controversial "one-China" question and trigger a backlash, not least for the Beijing-friendly government in Taipei, analysts say. In a sign of Beijing's intention to support Taiwan, State Council Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi said it was an "obligation" for the mainland to protect the safety and interests of Taiwanese compatriots. "The mainland supports all efforts to protect the rights and interests of fishermen from both sides," Yang said, answering a question on cross-strait co-operation in the South China Sea at a press briefing yesterday. "We have demanded that the Philippine side take the case seriously, find out the truth as quickly as possible and punish those responsible." Analysts on both sides of the strait say Beijing will back up its words with firm action - such as strengthening its patrols in the South China Sea - only at Taipei's request. But such a scenario is unlikely in the present circumstances, they say. Taipei-based political commentator Wang Hsing-ching - better known by his pseudonym Nan Fangshuo - says the Philippines has put Taiwan in an awkward position by raising the "one-China" policy. Philippine President Benigno Aquino said only Manila's Economic and Cultural Office, the Philippines' de facto diplomatic mission in Taiwan, could handle the incident because Manila does not recognise the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name. He therefore rejected Taipei's request for a formal apology directly to the government. Wang said: "It would be very embarrassing if Manila offered the apology to Beijing instead of Taipei, and that might be taken as a sign that Taipei accepts the 'one-China' policy. "And it would be difficult for Taipei to negotiate with Manila over fisheries deals and other sorts of agreement." Chang Ling-chen, a political scientist at the National Taiwan University, said Beijing's options were limited because "Taiwan will not ask for mainland help". She said the scenario was similar to the dispute over the East China Sea. Calls by mainland activists for joint efforts with Taiwan to step up displays of sovereignty around the Japanese-administered Diaoyu Islands received a cold response from Taipei. Both Taipei and Beijing claim the islands. Chang said: "President Ma Ying-jeou cannot afford to be accused of being pro-unification with the mainland." Ma has faced criticism from Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party for deepening ties with the mainland. Unilateral action by Beijing to exert pressure to Manila would trigger concerns from Washington and allegations that China was stirring up tensions, Chang added. Liu Guoshen, head of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said future developments would dictate whether Beijing adopted stronger measures. But he added: "It is not a situation in which you can do what you want. Beijing needs to take into account various factors, and consensus with Taiwan is necessary before deciding what to do." Professor Xu Bodong, director of Beijing Union University's Taiwan Institute, expects Beijing to offer discreet support for Taiwan's imposition of sanctions on the Philippines. "The mainland will not openly say it is taking action because it supports Taiwan," he said. "The situation facing the mainland is that it has to find a way that is acceptable to the Ma Ying-jeou administration, but can effectively push Manila." The incident is delicate for Beijing because effective involvement will add to the momentum for closer cross-strait ties. "But the mainland will be criticised for not showing sufficient support to Taiwan if the issue is not properly handled," he said. ^ top ^

China offers 4-point proposal on furthering cooperation with Greece (Xinhua)
2013-05-16
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered a four-point proposal on boosting the country's cooperation with Greece on Thursday. The proposal was raised by Li during his talks with his visiting Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras in the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing. Highlighting the robust growth of bilateral relations over the past 41 years, Li suggested that first, the two nations should work together more closely to formulate a packaged plan on expanding their pragmatic cooperation in many fields, promote balanced trade cooperation, strive to double the volume of bilateral trade by 2015, and deepen cooperation in their investment in infrastructure and new energy. Second, strengthening cooperation in sea transportation and stepping up investment in and support for major cooperation projects. Third, he called on Greece to further simplify visa procedures for Chinese citizens. Finally, the Chinese premier also suggested that the two nations boost their exchanges and cooperation in the humanitarian sector and adopt various means to cultivate people-to-people exchanges to help the people of the two countries increase their mutual understanding. He said that China has all along regarded Greece as a reliable good friend and partner, calling for joint efforts to further push forward their comprehensive and strategic partnership.
In regards to China-European Union relations, Li said China highly values the role played by the EU, expressing his hope that when Greece assumes the rotating EU presidency, Greece will continue to play its unique role in helping China foster its cooperation with the EU. China is greatly concerned about the EU's anti-dumping investigations into mobile telecommunications equipment and solar panels imported from China, and it hopes the Greek side could play a positive role in combatting trade protectionism and helping to maintain the overall development of China-EU trade cooperation, Li said. Echoing Li's views on bilateral relations, Samaras expressed his admiration for the achievements China has scored in social and economic development, calling the country a true friend of Greece. He said Greece is looking forward to deepening bilateral cooperation in fields such as trade, marine transportation, tourism and culture, and it welcomes Chinese companies to invest and establish businesses in Greece. Greece will play a constructive role in helping address trade disputes between China and the EU, as well as further promoting the development of EU-China relations, Samaras pledged.h After the talks, the two prime ministers also witnessed the signings of bilateral cooperation agreements, including those regarding trade, investment sea transportation and agriculture. At Li's invitation, Samaras arrived in Beijing Wednesday, kicking off his five-day official visit to China. ^ top ^

Premier Li's first foreign trip highlights multi-faceted diplomacy (Xinhua)
2013-05-17
During his first international trip as a government head, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will pay official visits to India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany from May 19 to 27. "Li's visit is an important diplomatic activity of the new Chinese government toward neighboring countries and Europe," Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao said at a press briefing on Thursday. Starting with India and Pakistan, the arrangement of Li's trip shows the great importance the new government has attached to relations with the two close neighbors, said Song. With Asia's status rising on the global stage, it is important for China and India to increase political mutual trust, deepen pragmatic cooperation and enhance coordination in international and regional affairs, said the vice minister. During his visit to India, Li will meet with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He will also deliver a keynote speech on China-India relations and attend the China-India Business Cooperation Summit, Song said. Vice Commerce Minister Jiang Yaoping said the two sides are planning to sign a number of documents on economic and trade cooperation. A trade and investment promotion group will also visit India during the same period, said Jiang. "China hopes the upcoming visit will cement the bilateral strategic cooperative partnership and beef up cooperation in mutual investment, trade and infrastructure," said Song. According to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce, the bilateral trade volume reached 66.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2012. "At such a growth rate, the two sides are expected to hit the designated target of 100 billion U.S. dollars on schedule," Jiang said, referring to the bilateral trade volume goal for 2015. Li's visit to Pakistan will come just as Pakistan has recently concluded its general election, which is "a sign of the high level of mutual trust and the special friendship between the two countries," said Song. He said China hopes the upcoming visit will send positive signals to the people of both countries and the international community that China values its relations with Pakistan and is committed to inheriting the traditional friendship and expanding mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides. During his visit to Pakistan, Li will meet with President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and meet with Pakistani leaders from the country's parliament, political parties and military, including Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). On Tuesday, the Election Commission of Pakistan announced election results for 254 National Assembly seats, with PML-N taking a majority 123 seats. "China is glad to see that Pakistan's general election has been held smoothly," Song said, adding that China respects the choice of the people of Pakistan. As an all-weather partner, China will continue to firmly support Pakistan's efforts to maintain stability and seek development, he said. "We are convinced that through joint efforts, the China-Pakistan strategic cooperative partnership will be lifted to a new level," he added. During Li's visit to Pakistan, the two sides are scheduled to sign three intergovernmental deals on economic and trade cooperation, and China's trade and investment promotion group will also visit the country. As developed countries, Switzerland and Germany are important economic and trade partners for China in Europe. China and the two European nations are economically complementary, said Song. China's huge market has provided great business opportunities for Switzerland and Germany, while Europe's advanced technologies will help China in achieving its economic transformation. During his visit to Switzerland, Premier Li will meet with President of the Confederation Ueli Maurer, Vice-President of the Confederation Didier Burkhalter and Head of Federal Department of Economic Affairs Johann Schneider-Ammann. "Li's visit to Switzerland will push forward bilateral ties and make bilateral cooperation a model of friendly exchanges between countries with different social systems," said Song. According to Song, the two sides will sign a series of cooperation documents involving the economy and trade, finance, education, culture and climate change. Last week, China and Switzerland launched the ninth round of negotiations on a free trade agreement. The two sides have narrowed their trade differences in goods, the service trade, rules of origin, trade facilitation, intellectual property and competition policy, said Jiang. He said the two sides have made their intentions to end the talks clear, and both hope to reach a mutually beneficial and high-quality agreement as soon as possible. "China-Germany relations are at the forefront of China-Europe relations, featuring the most frequent high-level contacts and the most effective dialogue mechanisms," said Song. The high quality of bilateral ties has benefited from the strategic vision and political courage of both countries' leaders, he noted. In Germany, Premier Li will meet with President Joachim Gauck and hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He will deliver a speech at a business luncheon and have extensive contact with people from the political and business communities. Li and Merkel will also officially launch "the year of languages" between China and Germany, an initiative meant to promote the study of each other's languages among the people of the two countries, said Song. The bilateral trade volume reached 161.13 billion U.S. dollars in 2012, accounting for 29.5 percent of China-EU trade, said Jiang. To further expand bilateral cooperation, a series of documents will be signed regarding cooperation in manufacturing, investment, finance and urbanization, said Song. The German side has attached great importance to Li's visit, said Song, adding that he believes the visit will build a sound working and personal relationship between Li and Merkel and further advance the development of bilateral ties. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Controversial list of 'illegal' petitioners is halted (SCMP)
2013-05-13
The state body that oversees petitioners has stopped compiling a controversial monthly ranking table that was originally intended as a measure of local officials' performance but instead has been blamed for prompting acts of abuse and the illegal detention of people seeking redress from senior leaders. The Southern Metropolis Daily reports that the State Bureau for Letters and Calls - an office of the State Council - was ordered to stop compiling a monthly ranking of the number of "illegal petitioners" from different provinces after the new leadership was installed in March. For centuries, mainlanders have expressed grievances by petitioning their leaders, often travelling from the far ends of the country to do so. In more recent times, if a low number of petitioners made their way to the capital, then it was seen as an indication of how well local officials were maintaining stability in their regions. As illegal land grabs, corruption and other wrongdoings have added to people's grievances, petitioning in the capital is still seen as a last chance to obtain justice. The former leadership was keen to keep such problems hidden to maintain an impression of social order, while local officials still see petitioners as a threat to their career advancement. The new edict could indicate a change of direction by the new leadership of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. It is not known if the move is permanent, but local governments appear to be following suit, the Guangdong-based newspaper reported. [...] The number of petitioners became an indicator of officials' skill in maintaining social stability after Beijing revised the petition law in 2005. It permitted petitioning in law, but also put local officials under pressure not to allow too many people to petition higher authorities if they cared about their careers. Though the practice was supposedly meant to help local officials provide better governance, critics said it just encouraged them to protect their jobs by stopping petitioners before they reached the city. More petitioners found themselves intercepted by local officials, police or even hired thugs. Many were detained illegally at notorious "black jails", often shoddy hostels on the outskirts of Beijing, before being sent home days - or even weeks - later. Over the years, there have been countless reports of human rights violations in which petitioners were illegally held and physically abused. The detention of Tang Hui last August is an example of how government officials used the pretext of maintaining stability to stifle petitioners. Tang was sentenced to 18 months in a labour camp for her continuous petitions seeking tougher sentences for the men who kidnapped and raped her 11-year-old daughter. She was released within a week after news of her treatment sparked a public outcry. Si Weijiang, a prominent Shanghai human rights lawyer, called for the petitioning system to be abolished rather than reformed. "Petitioning is the only hope for citizens as long as an independent judiciary cannot be ensured," said Si. "The government should use the legal system to rule the country, not a petitioners system to maintain stability." [...] A village official in Hebei, who declined to be named, said the current petition system forced local officials to detain petitioners illegally and he saw no sign that the situation had changed. "Nothing is more important for rural officials than maintaining stability, not even economic development," said the official from a village not far from Beijing. "Especially for officials from villages close to the capital, we have to keep an eye out 24 hours a day to stop petitioners.". ^ top ^

Top planning official Liu Tienan probed by anti-corruption committee (SCMP)
2013-05-13
The deputy head of the mainland's top economic planning agency has officially been placed under investigation by the Communist Party's top graft-busting organ on suspicion of "serious discipline violations". A one-line Xinhua dispatch yesterday quoted unnamed officials within the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) as saying that Liu Tienan, the 58-year-old deputy director of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), was being investigated, but it gave no details. Sources close to the matter said Liu was formally placed under investigation yesterday and that his home and office were searched by CCDI officials on Saturday night. Liu is the latest senior official caught in a renewed anti-graft campaign launched late last year by Beijing's new leaders. President Xi Jinping has warned that corruption could lead to the demise of the party and vowed that his anti-graft initiative would catch both low-ranking "flies" and higher-up "big tigers". The only other vice-ministerial-level official thus far brought down by the anti-graft campaign was Li Chuncheng, a deputy party secretary of Sichuan who was sacked and placed under investigation in early December on suspicion of severe violations of discipline - a common euphemism for corruption. Liu's case was first announced on December 6 on the microblog account of a deputy editor of news magazine Caijing. Luo Changping reported on his verified Sina Weibo account a series of allegations against Liu, including that he fabricated academic credentials, improperly profited from his position and kept a mistress. [...] Liu made several public appearances in the following couple of weeks, including at a national working conference on development and reform on December 18. However, a source familiar with the case told the Post that Liu had been barred since mid-December from attending official activities related to external affairs. "Liu is the latest high-ranking official brought down by the mistress he kept," the source said, adding that the mistress became frustrated after they broke up and started to seek help, while divulging information about Liu after he allegedly threatened to kill her. "They got to know each other in Japan, and the mistress was the ghost writer [of] Liu's academic thesis when he was studying there," the source said. According to Liu's official profile, he was an economic attaché at the Chinese embassy in Japan between 1996 and 1999. Xinhua also released a short commentary yesterday branding Liu a "moth" who had nowhere to hide and praising Luo's whistle-blowing efforts, saying they sent "a positive message" about the party's anti-graft drive. [...]. ^ top ^

Market to play bigger role, says Li (China Daily)
2013-05-14
China will allow the market to play a bigger role in economic innovation, Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday at a State Council meeting on the reform of government. As more power is delegated to lower levels, the government should shift its focus to three areas — improving the policy environment for development, providing high-quality public service, and upholding social fairness and justice, he said. There should be a better balance between the government and the market, and between the government and society, the premier said during a videophone conference to launch a new round in transforming the functions of the cabinet and its branch agencies. The reform of government functions is a major effort to help the nation maintain growth, control inflation, reduce risks, and enjoy healthy and sustainable economic development. According to the premier, the reform will minimize government approval needed to authorize general investment projects and general qualification certificates. It will contribute to fair competition in the market, and to corporate-level efforts to upgrade management and technology. It will ultimately expand employment opportunities, through speeding up the registration of industrial and commercial enterprises, and give more latitude to small and medium-sized enterprises and to service industries. It will also inject greater vitality to development initiatives at local level. Li stressed that more effective administration should be in place on matters of deep public concern, including food safety alarms, the environment and work safety. Justice should be meted out in a timely manner when the law has been broken in such cases. More should be done to cut redundant capacity in industries that suffer such problems, he said. Li's remarks come after the State Council, China's cabinet, launched two rounds of measures in the past two months, canceling and delegating 133 items concerning administrative examination and approval. [...] The new government's priority is to curb red tape and reduce administrative intervention in the market and on social issues. In early March, legislators endorsed a government restructuring plan, ushering in an era of intensified reform toward less bureaucracy, more efficiency and enhanced management. The reform package cuts the number of ministries under the State Council from 27 to 25, dismantling the ministry of railways and merging several other government agencies concerning food and drugs, energy, maritime affairs, population and family planning, health and entertainment. Li said, "China should cope with relations between the government and market and between government and society, delegating powers and managing the key issues." [...] Lu Mai, secretary-general of the China Development Research Foundation, said, "Delegating power is a smart choice, as this can improve the efficiency of the market and corporations and let the market decide what to do and where to go. But what is also important is enhanced management and supervision on some key hot issues, such as food safety and environmental pollution.". ^ top ^

Beijing touts drop in capital crimes in annual human rights reports (SCMP)
2013-05-15
The central government released its tenth white paper on human rights yesterday, highlighting a decrease in the number of crimes eligible for the death sentence as a sign of progress. The paper published by the State Council Information Office said the mainland has enforced strict controls over use of the death penalty and has taken a prudent approach to it, while also protecting the rights of detainees. Under a 2011 amendment to the Criminal Law, the death penalty was removed as a form of punishment for 13 economic and non-violent crimes, reducing the number of categories applied to death sentences by nearly one-fifth, said the annual "Progress in China's Human Rights" report. But law experts said that China's party-ruled system could not effectively protect the human rights of its citizens, let alone criminal suspects and detainees. "China has made progress in human rights protection in regard to the decreasing number of death sentences," said Wang Canfa, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law. "But the government is not yet prepared to embrace the true rule of law to emphasise the protection of human rights. "Only when a rule of law system is introduced could the human rights of Chinese citizens be protected properly and effectively," Wang said. Last year, China's highest court spared the life of a 30-year-old millionaire after her death sentence by lower courts triggered an outpouring of protests online. Wu Ying was sentenced to death in 2009 for swindling 11 investors out of 380 million yuan (HK$475 million). Last year, a phrase calling for "respecting and protecting human rights" was added to the amended Criminal Procedure Law, which, the white paper said, was milestone toward "in punishing criminals, protecting the public and safeguarding citizens' right to litigation". As done previously, the white paper cited economic and social development as progress in terms of human rights. "China has combined its human rights endeavours with economic, political, cultural, social and ecological construction," it said. ^ top ^

Change in China 'inevitable', says blind activist Chen Guangcheng (SCMP)
2013-05-15
Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng said on Tuesday that change in his country was “inevitable” but should be the work of the Chinese themselves rather than be imposed from the outside. “China will undergo a transformation, this is inevitable and in fact this has already begun,” said Chen, a blind self-taught lawyer who dramatically escaped house arrest last year. “We cannot wait for democracy, freedom and equality to come from the outside,” he told the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual gathering of rights activists. Chen, 41, achieved international prominence for his fight against the harsh measures used to enforce the one-child policy in his country. Sentenced to four years in prison and placed under house arrest, he fled his village last year and took refuge in the US embassy in Beijing. After protracted negotiations between China and the United States, he was finally allowed to leave for New York, where he has since lived with his family. Reading from a statement written in braille, Chen told his audience in Oslo that relatives remaining in China were facing persecution because of his activities and accused Beijing of not living up to its promise to ensure the safety of his family. He pointed out that more than 200,000 protests were recorded in China every year, while there was also growing mobilisation of dissenting voices on the internet. “There is nothing to fear from a washed-up ruling power that has lost its moral, ethical and legal foundations,” he said. “The idea that civil society's human rights values are not suitable for China is purely a myth that is propagated by the authoritarian regime and its attempt to hold on to power.” After assuming power in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he wanted “to continue to fight for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics and achieve the dream of a great revival of the Chinese nation”. ^ top ^

Woman sentenced to death for illegal fund-raising in E China (Xinhua)
2013-05-16
A 39-year-old businesswoman was sentenced to death for illegal fund-raising by a court in east China's Zhejiang Province on Wednesday. The Wenzhou Intermediate People's Court convicted Lin Haiyan, former general manager of Wenzhou Xinfu, an investment consultancy, of illegally raising 640 million yuan (about 103 million U.S. dollars) from others. Lin began to invest in the futures market with the money she raised from others in 2007. She accrued huge losses and were unable to return 428 million yuan to the lenders. The court also ordered her to return the money to the victims. In a previous illegal fund-raising case in Zhejiang, businesswoman Wu Ying was convicted of cheating investors out of 380 million yuan from May 2005 to January 2007 in private lending scams. She was initially sentenced to death in 2009. After her case sparked heated debate over the country's fund-raising system, her sentence was reduced to death with a two-year reprieve following a retrial in May 2012. ^ top ^

Gender income gap continues to widen (China Daily)
2013-05-16
Although China has made remarkable progress in narrowing gender inequality, challenges including the income gap between men and women remain, said top officials from the country's largest women's organization on Wednesday. Shen Yueyue, the newly-elected president of the All China Women's Federation, said China, which is home to one-fifth of the world's female population, shoulders a big task in promoting gender equality. "China, as a major developing country, faces numerous challenges and difficulties whether in economic and social development or in the process of gender equality," she said. [...] "There are gaps between women and men in terms of employment, resources and income," said Song Xiuyan, vice-president of ACWF, who delivered the keynote speech at the opening ceremony. From 1990 to 2010 the income gap between men and women widened, according to three national surveys. The annual income of female urbanites was about 78 percent of that of their male counterparts in 1990. The ratio dropped to 70 percent in 1999 and 67 percent in 2010. In rural areas, the ratio was about 79 percent in 1990 but declined to 56 percent in 2010. Wang Xiaolin, director of the research division of the International Poverty Reduction Center in China, believe women and men concentrating on different industries has partly lead to the widening income gap. "Many female migrant workers stay at the low end of the service sector, such as working as waitresses in restaurants, while men take more positions in the manufacturing industry. "China's manufacturing industry has undergone rapid upgrading, and pay in this sector has increased much faster than the traditional service sector, which means men's incomes are increasing quicker than women's," he said. Chinese women's influence in the household and on the well-being of children has increased significantly but their influence in the workplace and in politics has hardly increased, according to a report called "Inequality in China: A Case Study" released by Save the Children, an international NGO dedicated to promoting children's rights and welfare, on Monday. Statistics from the All China Federation of Trade Unions also showed women's declining representation in enterprises' governing bodies. Women made up about 32 percent of companies' board of directors in 2011, a decline of 11 percentage points compared with 2005. [...]. ^ top ^

33 dead, 12 missing in S China storms (Xinhua)
2013-05-16
Thirty-three people have died and 12 others were reported missing in the latest round of rain- and hailstorms that have swept south China, the country's civil affairs and disaster reduction authorities said Thursday. Since Tuesday, rainstorms have triggered flooding and landslides in some places, according to sources with the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the National Committee for Disaster Reduction. The ministry and committee both initiated a level-IV disaster relief response and sent work teams to worst-hit Guangdong Province on Thursday night. On Thursday, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters also dispatched two work teams to Guangdong and Jiangxi provinces to direct flood control efforts. In Guangdong, rainstorms battered 173 townships in five cities, including the provincial capital Guangzhou, on Wednesday and Thursday, triggering heavy flooding in some areas, the Guangdong Provincial Flood Prevention and Drought Relief Headquarters said. The water levels of some rivers in Guangdong have surpassed warning lines, and an offshoot of the Beijiang River saw the worst flooding in a century, according to the headquarters. A total of 650,000 people in the province have been affected by the heavy rains and 2,675 houses have been destroyed. As of 11 a.m. Thursday, 19 meteorological stations in Guangdong had reported precipitation measuring over 250 mm. Qujiang District, Shaoguan City, saw the highest precipitation, at 339.8 mm. "The heavy rainfall in a short time and prolonged precipitation in some areas can easily trigger flooding and landslides," said Zhang Dong, a chief forecaster with the Guangdong Provincial Meteorological Station. The rainstorms are expected to continue until Friday morning in Guangdong, then weaken before heavy rainfall returns to many parts of the province on Saturday, according to the station. ^ top ^

Hundreds join second protest in Kunming over oil refinery (SCMP)
2013-05-17
Hundreds defied police orders and took to the streets of Yunnan's provincial capital Kunming yesterday to protest against an oil refinery project. Ignoring warnings that any gathering would be illegal, they started congregating near the provincial government headquarters at about 10am despite a heavy police presence. They dispersed only after the city's mayor talked to them. At least one demonstrator was briefly detained when he unfolded a banner, witnesses said. It was the second demonstration in Kunming about the controversial project this month, after more than 1,000 protesters took part in a rally on May 4. One protester said yesterday's turnout was smaller, following reports the authorities had tried to prevent the demonstration. The protesters called for the cancellation of the refinery project, about 30 kilometres away in Anning, which is owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation. The project received the final go-ahead from the central government in March and will have an annual refining capacity of 10 million tonnes. The protesters also expressed their opposition to a plan to produce the carcinogenic paraxylene (PX), a downstream product of the refinery. They began to march at around 2pm, attracting onlookers and passers-by as they moved towards a popular shopping and entertainment area under close police watch. They were eventually guided into a road with less traffic, where they were greeted by Kunming mayor Li Wenrong. Li started with a bow to the protesters, apologising for failing to communicate adequately, before taking questions from protesters. They asked why the police had been asking people "for tea" - a euphemism for questioning - simply because they had expressed their opposition to the project online. One questioned the credibility of government environmental reviews and asked Li how Kunming could possibly challenge powerful state-owned enterprises. Li vowed to improve government transparency and to listen to the public. He also promised to open a microblog account by noon today. He repeated that whether the PX project went ahead would depend on public opinion, but rejected a proposal from the protesters for a referendum of the city's seven million residents. "There is no precedent for one person, one vote, being practised in our country, so it is not likely to happen," he said. Li also evaded most questions about the fate of the refinery, frustrating some protesters who left in the middle of the meeting. Instead, he offered face-to-face dialogue with protesters next Wednesday. Only eight people signed up. One of them, a 24-year-old, said: "I hope this can be a good beginning for a dialogue between citizens and the government on major decisions." The rallies are seen as a sign of growing public awareness of environmental issues on the mainland and increasing courage in speaking out. The protesters fear the massive project's huge water consumption will worsen a water scarcity crisis in Kunming and pollute the city's skies. Kunming authorities have tried to assure them it would have only a limited impact on the environment and vowed tight supervision. But they said an environmental review of the project could not be published because it "involves secrets". One protester asked: "If the refinery is as clean and safe as they claim it to be, why does the government not dare to publish the environmental review report?". ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Jingwen compensates girl's family (Global Times)
2013-05-12
The family of the woman who plummeted to her death from a Beijing market building in early May will be compensated 400,000 yuan ($65,130). The family and the market reached agreement on the compensation on Friday, two days after the woman's death caused a mass protest in front of the Jingwen Market in Beijing's Fengtai district on Wednesday, according to the People's Daily. [...] Beijing police released two clips from market surveillance videos Saturday, showing that the 22-year-old victim, a migrant worker surnamed Yuan from Anhui Province, enters a room in the building alone late on May 2. She is seen walking into a stairwell around 4 am, and jumped from a stairwell window around 5 am, but this was not captured on camera. The market will compensate Yuan's family because it "failed to clear out unrelated personnel after the market was closed and let Yuan stay in the market after midnight, which shows the market's deficiencies in management," the People's Daily said. However, the amount caused another round of skepticism toward the fairness of the local police's investigation after online speculation that Yuan was gang-raped and then murdered. "It doesn't make any sense that the market would pay as much as 400,000 yuan just because someone committed suicide," said one Sina Weibo user. "It's less like compensation, more like hush money." Tan Qiugui, a civil law professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, said that it is irrational for the public to question the fairness of the investigation based on the amount of compensation. [...] Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) reasserted that Yuan did not have any interaction with others while in the building after reviewing all surveillance videos and interrogating market staff. The autopsy results were rechecked, ruling out sexual assault or poisoning, said police, who arrested a 28-year-old woman on Thursday who confessed that she made up the rumor that Yuan was gang-raped. However, speculation of a police cover-up continues to circulate online. As some Web users noted, the woman had black stockings and a black skirt on after she fell to the ground, according to a picture used by many media outlets, while she had no stockings and a white skirt in the surveillance video released by the police. [...]. ^ top ^

Seven men jailed for illegally detaining petitioners in Beijing (Global Times)
2013-05-15
Seven people who were charged with illegally imprisoning 11 petitioners from Henan Province will serve prison sentences of one to two years, after the Beijing No.2 Intermediate People's Court recently upheld the original verdict and rejected a further civil compensation appeal from the petitioners. The intermediate court also supported the previous ruling regarding the compensation from Beijing Chaoyang District People's Court that the accused had to pay each petitioner between 1,300 yuan ($208) to 2,400 yuan in compensation, the Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. Wang Gaowei, 43, and Fu Chaoxin hired nine men ranging in age from 17 to 32 from Yuzhou, Henan Province. They rented two courtyards in Wangsiying township in Beijing's Chaoyang district to imprison the petitioners from Henan. Four petitioners were taken to the courtyards in Chaoyang district around 10 pm on April 28, 2012, and the next day they were sent back to Henan. During the illegal detention, two petitioners suffered facial soft tissue injuries and lacerations to their lips. The four petitioners later returned to Beijing and reported their treatment to police. Beijing police soon arrested Wang and another nine accomplices, releasing seven more people illegally imprisoned at the courtyards. Prosecutors charged the 10 suspects with the crime of false imprisonment, and 10 out of the 11 victims appealed for civil compensation from 100,000 to 610,000 yuan. On February 5, Chaoyang district court considered the suspects had infringed on the personal rights of the 11 petitioners, constituting the crime of false imprisonment. The court ruled Wang and the adult accomplices should serve one- to two-year jail sentences, and the three minors received suspended sentences of six to 10 months. After considering the documents provided by petitioners, the district court only ordered the accused to compensate the 10 petitioners from 1,300 yuan to 2,400 yuan. Both the convicted men and the victims said they would file appeals after the February sentence. During recent court hearings at the intermediate court, the convicted men agreed to withdraw their appeal and accept the original sentence. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibetans 'don't want Dalai Lama back', Chinese official tells Indian, Nepalese delegation (SCMP)
2013-05-14
Tibetans don't want their exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to return to his homeland, a senior Chinese official has told visiting Nepalese and Indian journalists. “They respect him culturally and in their religion, but they don't agree with his political ideology," said Cui Yuying, a deputy director of the State Council Information Office, according to a report in the Kathmandu Post. [...] The 14th Dalai Lama was recognised as his predecessor's reincarnation in 1950, a year after the founding of the People's Republic, which considers Tibet a part of historical China. He has not returned to the country since his flight after a failed uprising in 1959. Now in retirement, he continues to campaign for "meaningful autonomy" for the 6.4 million Tibetans living in China. The Chinese government has accused his "clique" of inciting self-immolations and acts of violence on the mainland. "The Dalai Lama has been living in India as a guest," the Press Trust of India quoted Cui as saying. "The Indian government has said that it will not allow the Dalai Lama to indulge in any political activity. China has full confidence in it." Cui, an ethnic Tibetan, has previously served as the director of the Communist Party's publicity department in the Tibet autonomous region, which covers a large part of historical Tibet. Tibetans in exile were welcome to return to Chinese-controlled region "on an individual basis", she reportedly said. "Tibetans are returning to Tibet from India," she said. According to the United Nationals High Commissioner for Refugees' Office in Nepal, some 800 Tibetans continue to sneak from China through Nepal to India every year. There, they join some 94,000 refugees already living in Tibetan communities, according to a 2010 estimate by the government-in-exile in Dharamsala. Despite criticism from China, India has given the Tibetan community widespread autonomy and is currently transitioning Tibetan schools to be put under the authority of the government-in-exile. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is expected to address the issue during his visit to India on Sunday, in what is his first overseas trip since assuming office in March.. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Transsexual woman wins right to wed, rewriting Hong Kong's definition of marriage (SCMP)
2013-05-13
A transsexual woman won her appeal at the top court over the right to marry a man, rewriting the century-old definition of marriage in Hong Kong. The Court of Final Appeal, ruling 4-1 on Monday morning, holds that it is “contrary to principle to focus merely on biological features fixed at the time of birth and regarded as immutable”. The court also noted that in present-day multicultural Hong Kong, the nature of marriage as a social institution had undergone far-reaching changes. It further noted that the importance of procreation as an essential constituent “has much diminished”. The judgment states that “whether a consensus regarding a transsexual's right to marry exists among the people of Hong Kong is not a relevant consideration”, because reliance on the absence of a majority consensus as a reason for rejecting a minority's claim is “inimical in principle to fundamental rights”. The woman, 37, identified only as W, twice lost her case in court in a bid for the right to marry her boyfriend. She had had a government-subsidised sex-change operation, and contended that by not recognising her new gender, the government in effect denied her the right to marry anyone - man or woman. "We think it would be quite wrong to exclude such a transsexual person from the right to marry in her acquired gender by characterising her as a 'pseudo-type of woman'," said the majority judgment co-written by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li and Permanent Judge Robert Ribeiro. But the court proposed to suspend carrying out the orders for 12 months because whether new legislation should be enacted is "entirely" a matter for the legislature to decide, it said. W herself, though, will be entitled to the court's decision at the end of the 12-month period whether the new legislation is in place. Dissenting judge, Permanent Judge Patrick Chan Siu-Oi said recognising transsexual marriage is "a radical change of the traditional concept of marriage", adding that there is no evidence whether social attitudes in Hong Kong have changed to the extent of abandoning or fundamentally altering the traditional concept of marriage. He said the change should be made only after public consultation.. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan steps up naval patrols after Philippines fires on fishing vessel (SCMP)
2013-05-13
Taiwan sent four coastguard and naval vessels to strengthen patrols in waters near the Philippines yesterday following public outrage over the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino coastguards. "The government is determined to protect our fishermen," cabinet spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen said in a statement as a frigate and coastguard vessels set sail for the area where the 65-year-old fisherman was killed on Thursday. Taiwan in a strongly worded statement late on Saturday demanded Manila apologise and compensate the victim's family or face a freeze on the hiring of its nationals. It also asked the Philippines to bring to justice the coastguards responsible and start negotiating a fisheries agreement. "If the Filipino government fails to respond in a positive manner within 72 hours, the hiring of Philippine workers will be frozen," said presidential office spokeswoman Lee Chia-fei. There are about 87,000 Filipino domestic helpers and other workers in Taiwan and they send home hundreds of millions of dollars a year. More than 50 bullets hit the 15-tonne "Kuang Ta Hsin No 28", killing skipper Hung Shih-cheng. [...] Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou visited the victim's family on an island off the southern city of Kaohsiung yesterday and promised to pursue the strong protest against the Philippine government. Several fishermen's groups said they plan to file a protest at the Philippine mission in Taipei today. Manila recognises Beijing, but not Taipei. In Manila, a spokeswoman for President Benigno Aquino, said on Saturday that authorities had launched a "transparent and impartial investigation" into the incident. Taiwan's government has come under pressure from the opposition and the media to take action, with the Philippines refusing so far to apologise and saying the coastguard was tackling illegal fishing. [...] Ma is currently riding on spectacularly low poll numbers. A poll in March suggested that Ma's popularity ratings are at an all-time low of 13 per cent. [...] The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions around the region over rival claims to the South China Sea. The mainland, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the sea. Mainland state media stood by Taiwan over the latest incident, asking Beijing to "teach Manila a lesson". ^ top ^

Japan seizes Taiwan fishing boat (SCMP)
2013-05-14
Japan seized a Taiwanese fishing boat inside its exclusive economic zone on Tuesday, the first incident since Tokyo and Taipei signed a fishing rights accord for disputed waters, the Fisheries Agency said. The Taiwanese fishing boat was spotted in waters near Taketomi island, part of Japan's southern Okinawa chain, the agency said. One of the agency's patrol ships seized the boat and arrested the captain, it said. The incident occurred outside the waters that are at the centre of a three-way territorial tussle involving Taipei, Tokyo and Beijing for which Japan and Taiwan have agreed fishing rights. Under the agreement, Taiwanese trawlers are permitted to fish in waters off East China Sea islands controlled by Japan as the Senkakus, but also claimed by China and Taiwan as the Diaoyus. ^ top ^

Taiwan freezes hiring of Philippine workers over death (SCMP)
2013-05-15
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Wednesday froze the hiring of Philippine workers to express “strong dissatisfaction” over Manila's handling of the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman, his spokeswoman said. [...] “President Ma expressed his strong dissatisfaction over the Philippines' lack of sincerity and its shifting attitude,” Lee Chia-fei told reporters, adding that Ma had decided to recall Taipei's envoy to Manila. Antonio Basilio, the Philippines' de facto ambassador, had also been asked to return to Manila to “help properly handle” the case, she said. Lee reiterated Ma's demands that Manila issue a “formal apology”, compensate the victim's family, apprehend the killer and start fishing talks between the two sides soon. “If the Philippine government cannot satisfy our side's four demands by 6pm today [Wednesday], our government will adopt a second wave of sanctions,” Lee said. Taipei made the decision despite an apology by Basilio after a closed-door meeting with Foreign Minister David Lin on Tuesday. The Philippines will send special envoy Amadeo Perez to repeat his “deep regret and apology from the people of the Philippines” to the people of Taiwan and the fisherman's family, according to Basilio. However, Taiwan's Premier Jiang Yi-huah said it was unacceptable that the apology comes from the “people of the Philippines” rather than the government as it was the coastguard that shot the fisherman. [...] Taiwan has threatened to conduct a naval exercise in waters near the Philippines. ^ top ^

Taipei slaps sanctions on Manila after weak apology (SCMP)
2013-05-16
Taipei stepped up its diplomatic reprisals against Manila yesterday in protest at the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coastguard last week. First, it put a freeze on the hiring of Filipino workers and recalled its envoy in Manila. Hours later, it suspended a host of exchanges with the Philippines and imposed barriers to tourism. In a sign that it is flexing its military muscle over the incident, Taipei also sent two warships to join a flotilla of naval and coastguard vessels in a joint drill today. The exercise will take place in waters near the overlapping "exclusive" economic zones of Taiwan and the Philippines. Taipei imposed the two rounds of sanctions yesterday after insisting that the Philippines had failed to show adequate sincerity in apologising for the death of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng. [...] Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah said yesterday: "Although the Philippines has issued a statement expressing its deep regret and apology over the incident … we have found [the statement] totally unacceptable for its description of the death of Mr Hung as a case of unfortunate and unintended loss of life." Although the Philippines has issued a statement expressing its deep regret and apology over the incident … we have found [the statement] totally unacceptable for its description of the death of Mr Hung as a case of unfortunate and unintended loss of life Citing the many bullet holes all over the 15-tonne Taiwanese boat, Jiang said the shooting was far more than "unintentional", making it impossible for his government to accept the apology. Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement that Philippine President Benigno Aquino had appointed Amadeo Perez as his personal envoy. The statement said Perez would "convey … the Filipino people's deep regret and apology to the family of Mr Hung Shih-cheng as well as the people of Taiwan over the unfortunate and unintended loss of life". Lacierda's statement was released to Taiwanese media by Perez after he was refused a meeting with Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lin shortly after arriving in Taipei yesterday. He was told he did not have "adequate authority" from the Philippine government. The statement also said Manila was launching a top-level probe into the case. Perez had hoped the statement would be accepted by Taiwan and lead to an end to the sanctions. But Taiwan's foreign ministry said the statement had not been signed by Aquino and had been issued only by his spokesman. This made Taiwan doubt whether Perez had sufficient authority and whether the Philippines was showing adequate sincerity. Premier Jiang also said Manila had been "oscillating in its handling of the case", making it necessary for Taiwan to take further retaliatory actions in addition to the freezing of the hiring of Filipino workers earlier in the day. The freeze was announced by Jiang in the first round of sanctions, which also included a demand that the Philippine representative to Taipei, Antonio Basilio, return to Manila. The second round of eight retaliatory measures included issuing a red travel alert for the Philippines to discourage sightseeing or business trips. It also included the suspension of high-level exchanges, such as ministerial-level meetings and meetings on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, next week. Taiwan also stopped issuing online visas for Filipinos. Last year about 200,000 Taiwanese visited the Philippines, while around 40,000 Filipinos visited the island. There are nearly 90,000 Filipino domestic helpers and other workers in Taiwan Taiwan's military said it would hold regular military exercises in waters south of Taiwan. A Kidd-class destroyer and a Lafayette-class frigate set sail from southern Taiwan to take part in a joint drill with the Taiwanese coastguard today. ^ top ^

Taiwanese naval drill stokes tension with the Philippines (SCMP)
2013-05-17
Taiwan staged a naval drill near the northern Philippines yesterday after rejecting an apology by Manila and snubbing its special envoy following the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman. In a show of military power, a Kidd-class destroyer and two Lafayette-class frigates joined a flotilla of coastguard vessels in crossing below 20 degrees north latitude in the overlapping "exclusive economic zones" of Taiwan and the Philippines during the joint drill, Taiwanese television reported. Two missile-carrying Mirage 2000-5 jet fighters also took part in the exercise, which included a simulation of an operation in which a rescue helicopter was dispatched from Taiwan to airlift a fisherman to safety, while an anti-submarine S-70C helicopter conducted a patrol, reports said. "The drill is aimed at practising joint patrols between the navy and the coastguard in protecting our fishermen, as well as maritime rescue operations," Taiwanese defence ministry spokesman Luo Shou-he said. Luo declined to comment on whether the vessels had sailed into the waters about 170 nautical miles south of Taiwan, where Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, 65, was killed by the Philippine coastguard last week. The shooting outraged the Taiwanese public and prompted President Ma Ying-jeou to demand a formal apology and impose sanctions on Manila. On Wednesday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino sent his personal envoy to Taiwan to express the Philippine people's deep regret and apologise to Hung's family over the "unfortunate and unintended" incident. Insisting that it was an act of "intentional slaughter", as evidenced by the many bullet holes in the Taiwanese fishing boat, including more than 18 in the cabin where Hung and his three crew mates had hid. Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah said yesterday that his government found Manila's response "unacceptable". Jiang also said Taiwan would fight to the very end and he would not rule out new sanctions. A group of Taiwanese investigators left for Manila yesterday to try to join their Philippine counterparts in the probe into the case. Aquino's special envoy, Amadeo Perez, was refused a meeting with Taiwan's foreign minister, David Lin, and Hung's family also refused to meet Perez yesterday. He then returned to Manila, empty handed. The TVBS cable news channel said Perez had a difficult time trying to find a five-star hotel in Taipei. Manila's representative office in Taipei eventually found him a business-class one. Some restaurant and supermarket staff have reportedly refused to serve Filipinos. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Dull China data prompts talk of relief measures (SCMP)
2013-05-14
Investment in China unexpectedly cooled last month while industrial output and consumption barely picked up, indicating the economy still lacks a strong momentum to rebound. Analysts called for more deregulation and structural reforms but were split over the need for a policy easing, such as an interest-rate cut, as property investment remained strong. Fixed-asset investment climbed 20.6 per cent in January-April from a year earlier, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed yesterday. The rise was slower than the 20.9 per cent growth in the first quarter and below the market consensus of 21 per cent. Property investment, however, rose 21.1 per cent year on year in April, accelerating from March's 20.2 per cent. Industrial production gained 9.3 per cent, faster than the 8.9 per cent growth in March, possibly reflecting two extra working days in April this year. "Overall, the data pointed to slightly better economic growth [in the second quarter], but is still far from encouraging. And the diverging trend between real-activity growth and credit growth remains a worrying mystery," Societe Generale China economist Yao Wei said. Total social financing, comprising bank lending and credit through non-banking channels, such as trust loans, jumped to 7.91 trillion yuan (HK$9.88 trillion) in the first four months, 63 per cent more than for the same period last year. "It seems a large portion of the new credit has gone to debt serving or to sustaining inefficient projects," Yao said. Though retail sales growth picked up slightly, to 12.8 per cent in April from March's 12.6 per cent year-on-year growth, the data was distorted by frenzied shopping for gold products after the metal's price dropped significantly last month. Gold and jewellery sales soared 72.2 per cent in April from a year earlier. [...] Australia and New Zealand Banking analysts saw an "increasing likelihood" for a quarter of a percentage point interest rate cut to boost domestic demand and curb capital inflows. But monetary policy alone would have limited impact, they said. China should accelerate structural reforms to sustain economic growth, such as reducing tax burdens on the services sector, liberalising interest rates, and deepening capital market developments, the ANZ analysts said. [...]. ^ top ^

Solar-grade polysilicon probes almost completed (China Daily)
2013-05-16
China has almost completed its investigations into solar-grade polysilicon from the United States, the European Union and South Korea, but the timing of announcing the preliminary rulings depends on the EU's decision on whether to impose punitive duties on Chinese-made solar panels, experts said. "The investigations have been near their conclusion for quite some time," said a source with the Ministry of Commerce. On July 20, the ministry launched anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations into solar-grade polysilicon, an ingredient in solar panels, imported from the US, and an anti-dumping investigation into the material from South Korea. On Nov 1, the ministry launched anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations into the same product from the EU. Another probe was launched on Nov 26 to determine whether retroactive duties should be levied on the material from the three sources. The ministry delayed the publication of its preliminary rulings to June. Meanwhile, the European Commission is reported to be planning punitive tariffs ranging from 37.3 percent to 67.9 percent on solar panels from China. The Brussels-based commission launched its anti-dumping probe into Chinese-made solar panels on Sept 6 and added the anti-subsidy investigation on Nov 8. The commission is expected to issue the preliminary ruling of the anti-dumping probe by June 6, and that for the anti-subsidy probe by Aug 8. "China's announcement of the preliminary rulings of the trade investigations is behind schedule, but the Ministry of Commerce is probably waiting for the EU's official rulings of the solar panel investigations," said a deputy director surnamed Zhang from the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products. "We have to wait for the government to announce the final decision on the polysilicon case and there is no timetable now," said Li Junfeng, deputy director of the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission. He added that he has been opposed to a trade war since the very beginning when the US started anti-dumping and anti-subsidies probes into solar panels imported from China, but "we have to make our move when others fight us in the first place". The 21st Century Business Herald quoted unnamed sources on Wednesday as saying that China will start to levy punitive duties on polysilicon manufacturers from the US, the EU and South Korea at the end of May and, according to the draft plan of the preliminary rulings, the heaviest tariffs will be imposed on US manufacturers. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Yao Jian said on May 9 that China firmly opposes the EU's tariffs on the nation's solar exports and will defend the interests of Chinese companies if the EU insists on the measures. Sun Guangbin, secretary-general of the chamber's solar division, told the first Global Solar Summit in Italy on May 8: "If solar panel exports from China are impeded, this will impact on the costs of European products. Nevertheless, we are willing to cooperate and maintain a dialogue in order to bring our production in line with market demand." Gao Jifan, chairman and chief executive officer of Trina Solar Ltd, speaking on Monday at a solar industry exhibition in Shanghai, said: "Solar companies from the Europe, Asia and the US have their different strengths and advantages in the industrial chain. Companies from different countries should improve the healthy development of the solar industry through cooperation." He said all players in the global solar industry should abide by international regulations and conduct their businesses under open and fair market rules. ^ top ^

FDI growth up for third consecutive month (China Daily)
2013-05-17
Foreign direct investment in China grew for a third consecutive month in April, suggesting overseas investors' approval of the country's investment environment as its new leadership deepens economic restructuring activities. Non-financial FDI in China in April came to $8.435 billion, up 0.4 percent from a year earlier, marking three months of growth after February reversed an eight-month slump with a rise of 6.3 percent, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday. The first four months of the year saw FDI increase 1.21 percent year-on-year to $38.34 billion, while total FDI into the country in 2012 declined 3.7 percent from a year earlier to $111.72 billion. "FDI in China is quite steady this year and is gradually picking up, which somewhat proves the competitiveness of the Chinese economy and the recognition of global investors," Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said at a news briefing. He added that 2013 will see steady growth of FDI as China enhances its comprehensive advantages and optimizes services for global investors. Lian Ping, chief economist at the Bank of Communications, said FDI is flowing slowly into China as the world's second-largest economy enters a moderate growth era. China's GDP growth in the first quarter slowed to 7.7 percent year-on-year after a rebound to 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter. Foreign institutions recently lowered their expectations for China's economic growth following weak economic data in April. Huo Jianguo, president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a ministry think tank, said the sluggish world economy also restrained capital flows. "The slight FDI growth in April is quite satisfactory and mainly driven by the new leadership's efforts in advancing economic restructuring," Huo said. The State Administration of Foreign Exchange, China's foreign exchange regulator, recently scrapped 24 regulations related to the administration of capital for foreign direct investment, in line with the government's efforts in reducing red tape to increase transparency and promote investment facilitation. However, Lu Jinyong, director of the China Research Center for FDI at the University of International Business and Economics, worried that speculative overseas money flowed into China disguised as project investments, just as it did with trade payments. "In 2013 we will see China's FDI equal to last year with no big change," Lu added. Rising costs at home and competition from other emerging countries were also blamed for the slowed FDI flow into China, according to Lian from the Bank of Communications. He added that FDI in China will probably decline in the following months and maintain a slow pace of growth in the long term. Huo said, "For China to consolidate the use of foreign capital, the government needs to speed up the reforms in investment and financing systems, including the removal of approvals and the simplification of procedures, as well as further opening up its services sector.". ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

Financial sanctions delay North Korea's atom bomb work, says UN (SCMP)
2013-05-15
Increasingly tough financial sanctions, an arms embargo and other international restrictions on trade with North Korea have significantly delayed expansion of Pyongyang's illicit nuclear arms programme, according to a confidential report by a UN panel of experts. “While the imposition of sanctions has not halted the development of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, it has in all likelihood considerably delayed [North Korea's] timetable and, through the imposition of financial sanctions and the bans on the trade in weapons, has choked off significant funding which would have been channeled into its prohibited activities,” said the 52-page report, seen by Reuters on Tuesday. In the report to the UN Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee, the panel also recommended sanctioning three North Korean entities and 12 individuals. It will be up to the 15-nation council whether or not it follows the recommendations. The three entities the panel said should be blacklisted are the newly created Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry, the Munitions Industry Department of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers Party (KWP), and the State Space Development Bureau. The individuals the panel wants sanctioned include the atomic energy industry minister, once he is nominated, and four senior officials at the KWP Munitions Industry Department. It also recommends the blacklisting of one national from Kazakhstan, Aleksandr Viktorovich Zykov, and two from Ukraine, Iurii Lunov and Igor Karev-Popov, for their involvement in North Korea-related arms deals. [...] “The DPRK has continued its efforts to import and export items relevant to missile and nuclear programs and arms,” it said. “There was no major change in either the number or nature of the incidents investigated by the panel over the reporting period.” The panel said countries should be on the lookout for North Korean attempts to procure the following key items for Pyongyang's nuclear programme – maraging steel, frequency changers, high-strength aluminium alloy, fibrous or filiamentary materials, filament winding machines, ring magnets, semi-hard magnetic alloys in thin strip form and other items. UN diplomats said that China, North Korea's principal ally and trading partner, continues to play a key role in enabling Pyongyang to skirt sanctions, though this is not discussed explicitly in the panel's report. Beijing has vowed to push for full implementation of the latest round of UN sanctions adopted by the council in March, though it remains unclear how much China was keeping that promise. Recently Bank of China shut the account of North Korea's main foreign exchange bank, the state-run Foreign Trade Bank, which was hit with US sanctions in March after Washington accused it of helping finance Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme. [...] The UN financial restrictions are working, the panel said. [...] “It has concerns, however, about the ability of banks in states with less effective regulators and those unable to afford effective compliance to detect and prevent illicit DPRK transfers,” said the report, citing a case involving the Bank of Congo in the Republic of Congo. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Andrin Eichin
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
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